The Brush Creek Trail is in the Sangre de Cristo Range, just south of Salida, CO. Like many trails on the east side of the range, it starts on and/or follows the Rainbow Trail.
So -- it's been noticed that I've been spending some time down here, and the reasons are simple. There's lots to see, I have some 14ers to work on here, and aside from that, there's trail after trail to check out. It's also a little less crowded compared to areas farther north. And there are good brew pubs. 'Nuf said.
I didn't realize until arriving at the trailhead that this was a burn area, and entire ridges were covered with black sticks that were once trees. However, the exposure to sun was temporary, and soon I had ascended into intact forest.
Ironic that these clouds were reminiscent of a smoke ring;
In spite of there being a fire a few years ago, life had begun to regenerate. Flowers, plants and small Gamble Oak trees filled in the landscape below the black charred tree trunks. So it was not exactly like running on the Moon.
Yet, for a good 2-3 miles, I was running among those charred tree trunks and on lunar gray dirt. And there were no human tracks on these trails -- absolutely none. Only deer had been using this trail for who knows how long, and the trail was overgrown and sometimes hard to follow. Aside from the usual text to my sister before leaving, nobody knew I was there, and nobody was going to come along and help me if I ran into trouble, short of search and rescue. So I ran even more carefully than usual. It was 9 miles up to the first lake, where I had my first human sighting.
On the upside, flowers were everywhere, in every color. And yellow Monarch butterflies were all over it, making sure everything got pollinated.
In addition to the burn, and the beetle kill, there were trees down the entire way. I mean, a catastrophic event must have hit this area and blown trees to the ground, because even the sketchy trail that was there, was covered with downed trees. There was some logging done to remove them in places, but there are still stretches of trail that looked like a bunch of Lincoln Logs were dropped from the sky.
But then there were the mountain creek sections. Yeah, trail-running bliss.
So at one point near the top, I heard loud crunching in the piles of timber. Oh crap. Bear. No, it turned out to be three guys headed up to camp for the weekend who had taken a wrong turn on the sketchy trail and ended up climbing over logs in a maze of fallen trees. I had dropped my camera but after I ran back up they were sitting on the trail relaxing, the first thing I noticed being the .45 in a thigh holster on guy number one. That may have explained the single shot I had heard earlier. They had camping packs and a fishing rod, and were headed up for the weekend. We talked for a moment, I got the beta on other trail choices, and then I ran up trail.
It was another mile and a half to the lake, and that was it for me. I figured the second lake was like the first only smaller, I had some shopping to do back in town, and I turned around and headed back down.
I had marked my mileage so that when I passed those guys again, I could tell them exactly how much longer they had to go to the lake's edge. They looked pretty beat. It was half a mile when I passed them.
This is where they were resting on the way up. Ha! Chaos:
I confirmed that a better way down the mountain might be found via a trail that led mysteriously over a sandy ridge into the woods. This turned out to be true, and it was called the [something] Mine Trail. The other half of the wooden sign was missing.
Also picked up the guy's .45 casing from the trail. You're welcome.
It was a totally heinous steep trail downhill, but I wanted to get down so I didn't mind. There were some trucks and a shack at the trailhead.
There was also a tentative SUV driving down the forest road, and I tagged along behind it for a while until the road became smooth and I couldn't keep up. Ah, well.
Distance was 15.33 miles, time 5:47 (moving 3:55), elevation gain/loss 3,591 feet, avg. pace 22:39 (moving 15:21), and best pace 7:13.
And I got a climbing helmet. It still sits on my head like a mushroom, but it's better than getting knocked out by falling rocks.
Dinner: the Caveman pie and IPA at Moonlight Pizza.